Thursday, March 09, 2017

Self-Definition and Souls

My confrere, Fr Anthony Chadwick has revealed that he has Asperger's syndrome. As a teacher, I have had to deal with a lot of students with learning difficulties which include students with Aspergers. As an examinations officer, I have had to make arrangements for many students who require some provision for their difficulties. In most cases, the cause was dyslexia of some kind. In a very few cases, I found out later, some of these diagnoses were acquired by paying an educational psychologist a sum of money - the psychological/medical version of simony. At the time, these folk could acquire extra time (as much as 40% extra time) in examinations.

The trouble is that Life doesn't give you 25% extra time after you leave school. You don't get 25% extra time to meet deadlines, nor do you get 25% extra time to cross a road. These days, the regulations have been tightened so that it is much more difficult to get extra time in an exam. That is a good thing in my opinion.

The fact of the matter is that Life is tough and unfair. I have much respect for Fr Anthony who has lived with Aspergers undiagnosed for nearly all his life. Clearly, the condition has given him some explanation, some answers for the way his life has gone. Yet also, he must have unique insights into a life where interactions with other people are difficult, trying to read their expressions, trying to deal with social cues which are almost invisible, and then dealing with the aftermath when he got these wrong.

Yet, Fr Anthony did not diagnose himself with Aspergers. He may have recognised aspects of the condition in himself, but needed the affirmation of modern science to make the confirmation. To often, people diagnose themselves with things and then expect the world to fit around them. This is another example of the self-definition of which we must beware.

I may seem to many to come across unsympathetically to the transsexual/transgender person. That I will not indulge the reality of their sensations is true. I do not believe that all truth is relative - how can it be? There are things that are objectively true otherwise there can be no truth at all.

1) All truth is subjective.
2) If all truth is subjective then the truth of the statement "all truth is subjective" is subjective.
3) The truth of "all truth is subjective" cannot be verified.
4) Statement (1) is possibly false.

So if "all truth is subjective" is true, then it is possibly false. On the occasion that it is false, then we have a contradiction. On the occasion it is true, then it becomes an objective statement contradicting itself. Certainly we have no justification in believing that all truth is subjective. We do have justification in believing that some truth is objective.

Ouch! Still with me? I'm not sure that I'm still with me!

My point is this: it is entirely possible that my feelings/impressions of reality/experiences although very genuine in their sensation are wrong. There is an objective reality there which exists utterly independently of our opinions. There will be things about our very selves which can be true even if we feel the opposite.

As a Christian, I believe in the existence of God and that He is responsible for the existence of all things that come into existence. It is He who defines what reality is, and our lives are lived trying to experience that reality. That reality is not necessarily what we experience it to be, and it takes our lifetime to reconcile ourselves with the harsh truth of reality.

We all have that terrible experience when we realise that we aren't who we want ourselves to be. We might think ourselves as more academic than we actually are. We might think of ourselves as being fitter, more capable than we actually are. We might think that we were born in the wrong time. We might think that we are the opposite sex to what we are.

This realisation of reality seems to cause two reactions - acceptance whereby we recognise reality and try to improve what we can and accept our limitations, or denial, whereby we cling to our perception of reality which is actually a fantasy and try to impose that fantasy on the world.

It seems to me that Christianity is an attempt to embrace reality with God. Humility is the acceptance of what God has ordained and co-operation with that ordination. The point of the Church is that all we, injured by the lies of the Devil, can find refuge in the company of others suffering the same horror of the fact of reality while embracing the truth of God's love for us in Our Lord Jesus Christ. As Christians, we must draw others to us even in their fantasies, but we cannot indulge their fantasies which will draw us away from what is truly real, namely God Himself.

The true response of the Christian to the self-defined is that of the recognition of the first reality, namely of a soul on whose behalf Our Lord made His sacrifice for redemption. That is where we must start. We must first see a person - that is objective. Then we must apply the Lord's directive - "love thy neighbour". No exceptions.

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